Thursday, December 18, 2014
The Unbreakable Laura Hillenbrand - NYTimes.com
One peculiarity of chronic fatigue syndrome is the degree to which it can remain invisible: A patient may be in excruciating pain without showing any outward sign of illness. There is still no simple laboratory test for the disease, nor any way to confirm its diagnosis. There is even some debate over what to call it. Many doctors and patients, including Hillenbrand, believe the words "chronic fatigue" sound trivial. They prefer the term "myalgic encephalomyelitis," or M.E., which refers to inflammation in the brain and spine. Other doctors resist this name, questioning whether patients with the disease reliably exhibit this inflammation. Dr. Charles Shepherd, a medical adviser to the ME Association in Britain, told me that decades of mystery around the illness have only worsened the suffering of victims. "I was taught at medical school 40 years ago that this was all hysterical nonsense," he said. "It was an illness which was either ignored, or dismissed, or regarded with extreme skepticism."